Thinking of everything in business, planning and ideas and, well, anything is a fallacy. Okay. It is impossible.
Yet. Day in, day out, we run into people who manage business, projects & people with ‘think of everything’ as their behavioral compass. Note. I said “behavioral,” not thinking. Far too often this topic gets slotted into overthinking, perfection and intellectual masturbation. It is not. Thinking of everything is all about behavior or behavior avoidance.
Thinking of everything is a procrastination method. “We cannot start until we are sure we have thought of everything.”
Thinking of everything is a fear of responsibility method. “I am going to get blamed if we didn’t think of ‘x,’ so let’s make sure we are thinking thru everything.”
Once again. This is simply behavior stuff cloaked in thinking.
This issue gets compounded because many people in the business world have a very focused linear horizontal ‘think of everything’ on a topic. Unfortunately <part 1>, inherent in that type of thinking is invariably you haven’t thought of everything <because most business things are not linear and one dimensional but rather multidimensional and complex>. Unfortunately <part 2>, far too many people force fit linear into a multidimensional world because the business world prefers tidiness, ‘this leads to that’ and certainty.
And then there is the ‘multi tangential double helix all over the place thinking’ methodology <I made that up> which is like trying to be prepared for “what happens if they ask us about how an atom is split” and, yet, all the meeting really is about … well … how to drive foot traffic into a store thinking. Inherent in that thought methodology is that you haven’t thought of everything because there is not enough time in the world to fulfill this methodology <… plus most people cannot do a multi tangential double helix>.
And then. Despite your methodology and all the preparation and things you have thought of you will always have some senior person, who has only been peripherally involved, turning to the team at the last minute and adamantly stating: “have we thought of everything?”
That is why I would have this illustration I opened with. When asked that question <by said wise senior person> this is the picture to whip out of my case to prove “yes, we have.”
It’s perfect. It showcases the often randomness of all the factoids and trivial and important stuff you … well … stuff into your head for a meeting to explain how you have thought of everything and how ‘the plan’ just is never going to be a nice, neat, tidy, linear plan.
<note: plan on getting fired if you pull this illustration out in response to a senior person question>
That said. Sure. I have certainly been accused of over thinking things on occasion, okay, maybe just over preparing for meeting questions. I would like to think that I spared everyone <slightly> except when we really had a good idea <cause good ideas are different>.
No, I don’t believe anything can be perfect, but with good ideas the closest you can come to perfectly protecting it and thinking of ‘everything’ from day one is a good idea. It at least gives you some hope for implementing the idea you want to implement.
Bottom line? When you think you have thought of everything, something will not be thought of.
<that is a postulate I believe>
Thinking is messy.
Plans are often messy.
Suffice it say that no matter how linear you want to make thinking, inevitably the best thinking has some aspect of randomness to it. Which leads me back to where I opened this piece.
Randomness decreases the uncertainty of outcomes when actually doing something. This inherently encourages one to use their procrastination muscles as well as encourages anxiety over accountability & responsibility once one actually does do something.
That said. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. So you may as well do.
Go be messy.
And, as Dr. Jason Fox says, “take strong tentative steps” because no matter how much you think about everything, you will never think about everything. Ah. Therein lies the fallacy.
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